Race Relations Day is a great time to celebrate ethnic diversity and promote racial harmony. Reporter Jenny Ling talked to six Northlanders of various ethnicities about their experience of race relations in New Zealand.
There were the racist slurs painted on a Māori school sign and anti-Muslim posters plastered on an Islamic centre last December.
When the Covid-19 pandemic surfaced, so too did racism rise against Asians and Māori.
And no one will ever forget the abhorrent mosque shootings of March 15, 2019, in Christchurch.
New Zealand still has a long way to go to address racism and xenophobia.
That's why Race Relations Day, celebrated each year on March 21, is so important.
The event is observed around the world as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and is recognised by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.
It recalls the tragic loss of life at Sharpeville in South Africa on March 21, 1960, when police opened fire on thousands of unarmed black protesters in the town, killing 69 people.
This year's theme in Aotearoa is E haere tahi ana [walking together].
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said New Zealand has admitted it has a problem with racism, especially after March 15.
Communities, businesses, the Government and media are all talking about it, which is positive, he said.
"It's no longer in the closet, there's good debate.
"It's good that we're having more public upstanders calling people out. People aren't afraid to go to the newspaper and call out their schools."
Racism raised its ugly head again when the Covid-19 pandemic reached our shores.
The Human Rights Commission looked into the impacts of Covid-fuelled racism and xenophobia after receiving numerous complaints from the Asian community.
The resulting report, Racism and Xenophobic experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand during Covid-19, was published in February.
It found 55 per cent of Māori and 54 per cent of Chinese respondents experienced discrimination since the beginning of the outbreak, followed by Pacific respondents at 50 per cent, and other Asian respondents at 49 per cent.
Foon said racism often surfaced when people want someone to blame.
"Humans are quick to blame and it's unfortunate Chinese were blamed for Covid, and Māori were blamed for checkpoints in looking after their communities.
"We've got a big job to do to change hearts and minds."
Foon urged people to "listen to the voice of racism", look for things in common with others, and respect differences.
"Just because people laugh it off doesn't mean it's right.
"Thinking about what we have in common is important and respecting that commonality and respecting that difference.
"Get to know your neighbour, the people in your community, at your school, on the sports ground. Even just doing a bit of research and asking friends really helps."
Foon also encouraged people "to get to know their own unconscious biases".
"Our homes reflect our society. We need to look at ourselves in our homes before we can do anything about it."
Multicultural Whangārei governance committee member Rabin Ranji said Race Relations Day is "a reflection of our journey".
With more than 200 ethnic communities speaking 160 languages, New Zealand is one of the most racially diverse nations in the world, he said.
The country is becoming increasingly multicultural, and Ranji encouraged Northlanders to "learn from each other".
"The day is a perfect opportunity for all people to learn from others and experience other cultures.
"It's important because it's a reflection of our journey, of becoming a culturally diverse and inclusive nation."
Originally from India, Rabin Ranji was brought up in the Middle East and has lived in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
He has travelled to New Zealand many times during the past five years, moving over permanently last June.
Putting down roots in a new country is time-consuming and tiring, he said, though in a positive way.
"If you've grown up in one county all your life, you've made friends, you've got a job, you know where everything is.
"Suddenly when you come to New Zealand you don't know anything.
"So you have to learn about it, you have to make friends, and you've got to do that all again.
"When I moved to Whangārei it was challenging. But thanks to the wonderful people, and my colleagues and organisations like Multicultural Whangārei, it didn't take much for me to integrate.
"Everyone has been welcoming and accepting."
Ranji joined Multicultural Whangārei first as a volunteer, and he is now on the governance committee.
He said integrating into a new society can be challenging for new migrants, and he encourages them to learn about their new country while retaining their own identity.
"Immigrants must be prepared to accept and acknowledge the culture of New Zealand.
"That doesn't mean letting go of your own culture and traditions, they both go hand in hand.
"For any new immigrant, the first few months or years can be tough because you're putting down roots in a new place.
"But it gets better, you've got to be open and expect the change."
Ranji said Northland is a unique part of New Zealand and he encourages new migrants to learn about Māori culture and traditions.
"For me coming to the north, learning a few words in te reo Māori and understanding that culture, I'm open to that because it makes you a better person.
"As a society we must be open to celebrate all cultures."
Satchet Guilloux's French dad and Indian mum met in Hong Kong, and that's where he grew up before moving to India near Mumbai for four years.
The 25-year-old moved to New Zealand after finishing high school in 2018 and began conservation and environmental management studies with NorthTec.
He gained a bachelor of applied science last November.
"I love it here in Whangārei, it's similar to what it was like living in Hong Kong on an outlying island."
Guilloux is now part of the volunteer administration team at Multicultural Whangārei.
He joined the organisation because he was interested to meet people from all over the world.
"I hadn't lived on my own without family before.
"It took me a few months to get used to that. But my flatmates have been really supportive, they feel like family now."
Regarding race relations in New Zealand, Guilloux said most people are very tolerant and open to interacting with different races.
"It's very important to get together and discuss obstacles and challenges.
"Some people might fail to see how they can overcome them. But being able to talk about it in an open space and share and get feedback is really important."
Justine Macatangay moved to New Zealand in 2017 after her husband landed a job here.
Originally from the Philippines, she had been living in Abu Dhabi for 15 years.
The 39-year-old started out as a volunteer at Multicultural Whangārei and is now the events co-ordinator.
She admits she has found the language and Kiwi slang challenging, but she has put in the effort to learn about it.
"I feel like I have to exert a little more effort explaining where I'm from and what I do.
"I took time to study more English to be more familiar with the language and lingo."
Though she misses the food from the Philippines - "Filipinos are well known for being hospitable and having great feasts and all being together" - she feels blessed to have joined Multicultural Whangārei.
"The environment is kind and understanding of all the different cultures".
For Macatangay, Race Relations Day is an opportunity to inform others.
"Being multicultural is a sensitive issue; we have to be understanding with the complexity of cultures.
"It's not knowing 100 per cent how to respond to a person but trying first to listen and understand what they are trying to convey.
"Give us some time to express our own culture and beliefs."
Nataly Cardoso is from Uruguay in South America, moving to New Zealand in 2014 to be with her Kiwi husband, who she met in Egypt.
Now an office worker in Whangārei, Cardoso was shocked to hear a man hurling racist abuse at a woman shortly after the March 15 Christchurch mosque attacks.
"He told a woman wearing a head covering to "go back home".
"It shocked me at the time, I remember I told him off.
"I got angry and my instinct was to protect that person."
The 35-year-old encourages people to report incidents of racism to police.
"Even if you don't think it will make a difference, it might help if everyone reports it. It could help police pinpoint that person."
Cardoso said more "intercultural awareness" is needed to educate people on the differences between cultures.
This would help people become more open-minded, she said.
"New Zealand is very multicultural and I think we can learn from that.
"We should make people aware of how easily we can unconsciously have judgments for different cultures.
"If you find somebody doing something different, just always think It could be related to their culture, and they do things a different way."
Born and raised in Dubai but originally from Palestine, Manar Kabrawi arrived in New Zealand in 2017 with her husband and two children.
The family spent two years in Auckland before moving to Whangārei.
The couple now have three kids and they love their new life.
"I love New Zealand; we feel more at home now than we ever felt in 40 years in Dubai.
"It's very compassionate, it's fair and friendly."
Kabrawi, 41, admits feeling lonely when she first moved to the north, and looking to form friendships with like-minded people.
While sitting her driver's licence, someone told her about Wings [Women's International Newcomers Group Social] and she reached out.
She is now working for the non-profit friendship group as its media and marketing manager.
Kabrawi had two experiences with racism while living in Auckland.
During one incident a woman on a train was chatting away until Kabrawi mentioned she was from the Middle East.
"Then she got up and moved away.
"I didn't take it to heart, it made me feel sorry for her.
"It just shows that person needs to come out of their shell and have an open mind and see the beauty of other cultures."
Mostly, though, she has had positive experiences in New Zealand.
"The general manner is people are very open-minded and embrace new cultures and other people."
Her advice is to "keep an open mind and feed your curiosity".
"There's much more outside our island, there's much more to explore and see.
"Ask questions; if you don't ask questions, you'll never know."
Zainab Ansari found settling into New Zealand to be straightforward and smooth.
Originally from India, she moved here with her husband in 2017, and swiftly met a few women from the Women's International Newcomers Group Social.
"I started volunteering with Wings and a year later became the co-ordinator. They were so welcoming, it didn't feel as though I was a newcomer.
"At the same time I was volunteering at the Trade Aid shop.
"Being in the company of these two organisations I met more people and got to know the community, which made my settlement very smooth."
Ansari asked Northlanders to respect each other's differences.
"New Zealand is such a diverse country. It is a melting pot of cultures.
"We all have the right to be treated with equality and not be judged by the way we talk, the language we speak, the food we eat or clothes we wear or even by the colour of our skin."
Celebrating race relations
* Race Relations Day forum at Forum North in Whangarei on March 22 from midday until 2.15pm. The free public event features three guest speakers: Singapore-trained lawyer Sue-Ann Moo, Ngātiwai kaumatua Hori Parata, and former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, who campaigned for Māori wards in local government.
Contact 09 4300571 or email@example.com for details.
* The Human Rights Commission is hosting an online event which includes a panel discussion on March 22 from 11am-12.30pm.
Visit hrc.co.nz/resources/race-relations-day for details.